AIDS Increasing Among Older Americans at Higher Rate

about AIDS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that between 1991 and 1996, new AIDS cases in the United States rose twice as fast among people age 50 or older as they did among people between the ages of 13 and 49. In 1996, AIDS cases among older people climbed 22% (6,400 cases from 5,260 in 1991), but only 9% among the younger group (50,300 cases from 46,000).

It would appear that older adults don't regard themselves as being in a "risk group," even though they may engage in risky behaviors, so they are not protecting themselves against infection. Indeed, at the National Conference on AIDS in Miami in September, their mayor told us that almost one-fourth of Miami-Dade's new cases are older. In the epidemic's early years, most HIV+ seniors were infected through blood transfusions. Now transmission is by unprotected sexual intercourse and shared needles, just as with other age groups.

Senior citizens' physicians are not typically looking for HIV, nor are they counseling their older patients about risk behavior and prevention.

AIDS has never been a disease of the "who" (risk groups); it is a disease of the "what" (what someone does). This suggests that older people need HIV prevention education, too.

- Sandy Bartlett,

Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS

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